As the degree of complexity is increasing in public sector organizations it is important to take stock and investigate how the current knowledge of the field(s) of organizational learning and/or the learning organization can help us to better understand and handle the (new) problems and opportunities that are arising (OECD, 2011; Brix, 2017; Nguyen et al., 2019; Örtenblad, 2019; Rose et al., 2020). The argument is that multiple variables influence public sector organizations and that “there are no simple recipes or one optimal organizational solution for achieving a better-organized public sector (…) the context is significant for the results” (Christensen et al., 2020 p. 173). There is consequently a growing need to understand how public service managers and employees navigate in the local organizational context when (new) dilemmas and paradoxes emerge while exploring new opportunities and exploiting old certainties (Choi and Chandler, 2015; Nielsen et al., 2018; Brix, 2019).
Hybrid organizational requirements from New Public Management and New Public Governance
Dilemmas and paradoxes can materialize in public sector organizations as counter-intuitive requirements when managers (and politicians) both become accountable for the outcomes of public services (NPM) while they should also have a high degree of user involvement in defining and co-producing better services (NPG) (Mortensen, 2020). The argument is that the integration of collaborative strategies represents a new leadership paradigm that is different from the evidence-based, top-down paradigm that has been the ‘way of working’ for more than a decade (Bovaird and Loeffler, 2016; Mortensen et al., 2020). With the new leadership paradigm, new and different roles are not only ascribed to the frontline staff and decentral leadership, but to all managerial levels including the central leadership, top management and politicians (Tuurnas et al., 2015; Steen and Tuurnas, 2018; Mortensen et al., 2020). There is hence a ‘missing link’ in the literature between the collaborative governance discourse and how this discourse can be operationalized into value-creating organizational practices – it is here that theories from organizational learning/the learning organization might be able to help us explain what happens and what could be done differently (Jensen and Thomassen, 2021). Ultimately, research on collaborative governance in the public sector has so far mainly focused on drivers and barriers for successful processes at the frontline, and much less on how different levels of leadership and organizational structure and culture also play a central role in enabling the creation of public value (Kleinhans, 2017; Christensen et al., 2020). Focus thus ought to be not only on learning processes, but also especially the context in which learning processes are to take place within and across organizational and administrative boundaries (Elkjær, 2005; Rashman et al., 2009; Kringelum and Brix, 2021).
A “special” organizational context
Public sector organizations are special in the regard that the introduction of e.g., new policies and reforms require such organizations and their members to respond accordingly and often prompt (see e.g., Borge et al., 2018; Solheim and Moss, 2021). One way of responding is to investigate how public service managers in (local) organizational context can create an ‘opportunity space’ in which they themselves as well as their employees are enabled to deliver and co-produce high quality services as efficiently as possible with the purpose of generating public value (Mortensen et al., 2020; Brix et al., 2021; von Heimburg et al., 2021). The point is that theories of organizational learning and/or the learning organization can play a vital role in facilitating the changes needed to succeed (see, e.g., Örtenblad et al., 2016). In practice, many different organizational responses have been made in the public sector to meet the new requirements such as the engagement in collaborative governance strategies (Bingham, 2011) and especially also the co-production turn in public sector organizations (Brandsen et al., 2018; Jensen and Thomassen, 2021). With this special issue, the ambition is to better understand what organizational learning theory and/or theory of the learning organization can offer to the public sector at current time and how the theories from our journal’s field can enable the creation of a better public sector and most importantly, more public value (e.g., Moore, 1995; Osborne et al., 2010).
The special issue welcomes papers that are dedicated to advance our understanding of organizational learning theory and/or theory on the learning organization in the public sector. Following, non-extensive list of themes, could act as inspiration:
- Review papers on organizational learning or the learning organization in relation to public sector, or any theme relevant to the public sector such as co-production, public sector innovation, etc.
- Review papers on organizational learning or the learning organization in relation to specific public sector contexts such as e.g., healthcare, (higher) education, eldercare, etc.
- Case studies on successful, failed or disappointing change programs in public sector organizations and local governments in relation to organizational learning theory and/or the learning organization
- The role of organizational learning and/or the learning organization in the bottom-up realization of user knowledge to augment the experienced value from service users’ perspective, etc.
The criteria for being included in this special issue are threefold. First, manuscripts must build on and advance (or challenge) our understanding of organizational learning theory and/or theory of the learning organization in relation to the public sector. Priority is given to empirical studies that utilize qualitative research strategies or mixed methods. Conceptual manuscripts are also welcomed but only if they relate to the public sector setting. Second, manuscripts must live up to the criteria in the editorial by Editor-in-Chief, Professor Anders Örtenblad’s ‘Making your manuscript relevant for the TLO’: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/tlo/making-your-manuscript-relevant-tlo-editor. Third, and finally, all manuscripts must follow the TLO author guidelines: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/tlo#author-guidelines .
The deadline for new submissions is May 1st, 2022. Accepted papers will as soon as possible be posted online at Emerald Insights EarlyCite homepage on: https://www.emerald.com/insight/publication/issn/0969-6474#earlycite. The special issue is expected to be published in its final version mid 2023.
Bingham, L.B. (2011), “Collaborative governance”, Bevir, M. (Ed.) “The SAGE Handbook of Governance”, SAGE Publications, London, pp. 386-401.
Borge, B.H., Filstad, C., Olsen, T.H. and Skogmo, P.Ø. (2018), "Diverging assessments of learning organizations during reform implementation", The Learning Organization, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 399-409. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-02-2018-0024
Bovaird, T. and Loeffler, E. (2016), “Public management and governance: the future?”, Bovaird, T. and Löffler, E. (Eds.), Public Management and Governance, 3rd edition, Routledge, London, pp.395-409.
Brandsen, T., Steen, T. and Verschuere, B. (2018), ”Co-Production and Co-Creation: Engaging Citizens in Public Services, Routledge, London.
Brix, J. (2017), “Exploring knowledge creation processes as a source of organizational learning: a
longitudinal case study of a public innovation project”, Scandinavian Journal of Management, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 113-127.
Brix, J., Tuurnas, S. and Mortensen, N.M. (2021), “Creating opportunity spaces for co-production: professional co-producers in inter-organizational collaborations”, Thomassen, A.O. and Jensen, J.B. (Eds.), Processual Perspectives on the Co-production Turn in Public Sector Organizations, IGI Global, Pennsylvania, USA, pp. 157-175.
Christensen, T., Lægreid, P. and Røvik, K.A. (2020), “Organization Theory and the Public Sector: Instrument, Culture and Myth, 2nd edition, Routledge, New York.
Choi, T. and Chandler, S.M. (2015), “Exploration, exploitation, and public sector innovation: an organizational learning perspective for the public sector”, Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership & Governance, Vol. 39 No. 2, pp. 139-151.
Elkjær, B. (2005), ”Når Læring Går På Arbejde - Et Pragmatisk Blik På Læring I Arbejdslivet”, Samfundslitteratur, København.
Gilson, C., Dunleavy, P. and Tinkler, J. (2009), “Organizational Learning in Government Sector Organizations: Literature Review”, LSE Public Policy Group, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
Jensen, J.B. and Thomassen, A.O. (2021), “Organizing learning processes of co-production: a theoretical view”, Thomassen, A.O and Jensen, J.B. (Eds.), Processual Perspectives on the Co-Production Turn in Public Sector Organizations, IGI Global, Hershey, PA, pp. 1-18.
Kringelum, L.B. and Brix, J. (2020), ”Critical realism and organizational learning”, The Learning Organization, Vol. E-pub ahead of print No. E-pub ahead of print. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-03-2020-0035
Loeffler, E. (2016), ”Managing people and organizations: structures, processes and cultures”, Bovaird, T. and Löffler, E. (Eds.), Public Management and Governance, 3rd edition, Routledge, London, pp.116-133.
Moore, M.H. (1995), Creating Public Value: Strategic Management In Government, Harvard University Press, Boston, MA.
Mortensen, N.M. (2020), The Challenges of Translating and Implementing Co-Production in Care Services: A Danish Case Study, Unpublished PhD thesis, Aalborg University, Denmark.
Mortensen, N. M., Brix, J. and Krogstrup, H. K. (2020), ”Reshaping the traditional roles of public agency:
From public servants to co-producers”, Sullivan, H., Dickinson, H. and Henderson, H. (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant. Palgrave Macmillan.
Nguyen, N., Hansen, J.Ø. and Jensen, A. (2019), “How best to study the learning organization”,
Örtenblad, A. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Learning Organization, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 348-359.
Nielsen, J.A., Mathiassen, L. and Hansen, A.M. (2018), “Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning: a critical application of the 4I model”, British Journal of Management, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 835-850.
OECD (2011), “Together for Better Public Services: Partnering with Citizens and Civil Society”, OECD
Örtenblad, A. (2019), “Suggestions for future research on the learning organization”, Örtenblad,
A. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Learning Organization, Oxford University Press,
Oxford, UK, pp. 477-486.
Örtenblad, A., Löfström, C.A. and Sheaff, R. (2016), Management Innovations For Healthcare Organizations: Adopt, Abandon Or Adapt?, Routledge, New York.
Osborne, S.P., Radnor, Z. and Strokosch, K. (2016), Co-production and the co-creation of value in public services: a suitable case for treatment?, Public Management Review, Vol. 18 No. 5, pp. 639-653.
Rashman, L., Withers, E. and Hartley, J. (2009), “Organizational learning and knowledge in public service organizations: a systematic review of the literature, “International Journal of Management Reviews”, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 463-494.
Rose, A.-L., Dee, J. and Leisyte, L. (2020), "Organizational learning through projects: a case of a German university", The Learning Organization, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 85-99.
Solheim, M.C.W. and Moss, S.M. (2021), “Inter-organizational learning within an organization?
Mainstreaming gender policies in the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, The Learning Organization, Vol. E-pub ahead of print No. E-pub ahead of print. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-05-2020-0103
Steen, T. and Tuurnas, S. (2018), “The roles of the professional in co-production and co-creation processes”, Brandsen, T., Steen, T. and Verschuere, B. (Eds.), Co-production and Co-creation: Engaging Citizens in Public Services, Routledge, London, pp. 80–92.
Tuurnas, S. (2015), “Learning to co-produce? - the perspective of public service professionals, International
Journal of Public Sector Management”, Vol. 28 No. 7, pp. 583–598. doi:10.1108/IJPSM-04-2015-0073
Tuurnas, S., Stenvall, J., Rannisto, P.H., Harisalo, R. and Hakari, K. (2015), “Coordinating co-production
in complex network settings”, European Journal of Social Work, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 370–382.
von Heimburg, D., Ness, O., and Storch, J. (2020), Co-creation of public values: citizenship, social justice, and well-being, Thomassen, A.O. and Jensen, J.B. (Eds.), Processual Perspectives On The Co-Production Turn In Public Sector Organizations, IGI Global, Hershey, PA, pp. 20-41.